Wednesday, September 7, 2011

AN INTERVIEW: With Nelson "Noc" Lau of Milsig

Lau, posing for some product shots of Milsig's
2009 limited run paintball marker, the M-Series Paradigm
       Milsig hasn't always been the Milsig it is today. Those loyal to the brand are familiar with a magazine fed marker know as the TM4 which precluded the very popular K-Series, and also know of Milsig's involvement in assisting RAP4 in the creation of their Gen 3 T68. How far back does Milsig go? What are the origins?

       The gun you know as the K-Series actually goes farther back than the MILSIG brand. The platform existed for 2 years before MILSIG was launched. My partner Cho designed the original K-Series, and RAP4 picked it up and re-branded it as the T68 Gen5. Then we went into a partnership with a company called SWAT systems, they rebranded it Tactmark TM4...and then we launched MILSIG on our own. Before MILSIG was launched, we did massive upgrades to the original system, and throughout its life cycle, we’ve continued to make improvements.
       As for even older markers, RAP4’s T68 Gen 3 line was also our design. It was based on the stacked tube (SPYDER) system. RAP4’s current mag fed design is basically a T68Gen3 converted to mag fed. I guess they decided to upgrade our earlier design after we broke ties with them. You’ll also notice that RAP4 magazines are identical to ours as they pretty much copied our design.

       Was being the president of a milsim paintball company always a goal of yours? Or was there something special along the way that kindled an interest in the industry?

       I actually never set out to start a MILSIM PB Company, and I didn’t play a lot of PB growing up in Vancouver. I was actually heavily involved with airsoft and real steel. I got my first airsoft gun when I was 14, and I founded the British Columbia Airsoft Club when I was 19. I was literally one of the “pioneers” of airsoft in Canada. Eventually, my interests in airsoft and guns in general led me to run a small but successful business selling and fixing airsoft guns...which eventually led to a lot of lucrative work in the movie industry as they had just “discovered” airsoft guns as movie props. My life basically revolved around Airsoft, Real Guns, and MILSIM. When I wasn’t working with Airsoft, I was out shooting them with the guys at the club.
The BCAC was run by a pretty tightly knit group of older professionals, and we steered the club towards a true MILSIM mantra. Unlike a lot of clubs and even businesses today, the word “MILSIM” had true meaning to us. A bunch of guys running around with BDUs and space guns and playing different versions of capture the flag is NOT MILSIM. We were all drawn to airsoft because we were a bunch of military buffs, and the game play reflected that. All we played were objective based scenario games.
       There was very little conflict, and while we always played on the same few local fields, the changes in scenarios and objectives kept things fresh. Over time, more newbies joined, and all they wanted to do was play “shoot em up” games. They all wanted instant gratification, and doing recon, patroling, and stalking was WAYYYY too boring! It became the same “team A out to kill all the guys on team B”, and vice versa. And as bragging rights and egos got out of hand, the finger pointing started and everyone was accusing everyone else of cheating. In the end, I quit airsoft, and I often wondered “Wouldn’t an airsoft gun that marked solve the problems in airsoft?” “What about a more realistic paintball gun?”
Years past and I eventually moved to Taiwan as my long time girlfriend was “summoned” home to Taiwan to help with the family business. Out of shear luck I met my manufacturing partner Cho when I attended a PB bachelor party at one of his fields. We quickly became friends because of our common interests and he eventually asked me for help on a project.
       He was working on a contract for an American company intending to turn one of his products into a Less Lethal Launcher for Law Enforcement and Military use. I was brought on as a consultant to help with the R & D. I spent 18 months on this project and I got to know Cho’s product inside and out. Eventually, the project ended as the company we were working with had some legal and financial problems...but we didn’t walk away from this project empty handed.
       While working with the American partners with the LE Project and launching Tactmark, I saw a void in the Paintball Market. Accessorized Tippmann A5s were all the rage, and everyone wanted to make their marker look more real. I looked at these things and I thought...” Why add a hunk of metal to the receiver to make it look like a magazine, only to continue feeding balls from a top heavy hopper?” “Why add a CAR stock to a marker to only put a gigantic air tank underneath?” “Why pay hundreds of dollars to wrap your marker in folded sheet metal just for looks?” I asked a lot of WHYS and realized that we already had the perfect product. We already had a realistic and robust marker...with a working magazine! The answer to the questions I asked myself when I quit airsoft was staring right at me... 
        The rest as you’d say is HISTORY!

       On the way to the spot you are in now, was there any person in (or outside of) the industry who you aspired to be like?

       I met a lot of people along the way, and I learned a lot from many different people. I can’t say that I want to be like any one person or company in particular as everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. If I have to identify certain people and their positive traits, I’d say Doug Brown of PSIWORX for his passion and understanding of the industry...or in particular what is WRONG with the industry. Eric Bratten of Tiberius for his candor and professionalism. Finally, Gino Postorivo of Valken for his vision and ability to spearhead such a come back in such a short time.

       Some individuals at the woodsball field I hail from and some from others have criticized the design of the K and M-series markers for being somewhat archaic, relying on high pressure output for operation instead of a lower pressure poppet for maximum air efficiency. When one considers the MSG RRV vest which holds 8 mags (160 rounds) and the MATS Stock grants around 130 shots, they make a reasonable point, what would you say to address nay-sayers?

       I don’t doubt that there are more efficient systems out there, and that the inline blowback design is quite old. But the oldie is a goodie as there are more inline blowback markers out there by volume than any other designs. We chose to use the inline blow back system ourselves because the action most feels like a real gun as the blowback action creates some sensation of felt recoil. It’s NOT the most efficient system, but for the sake of realism, there must be some tradeoffs.
       As for the vest holding more mags than the 13CI HPA tank can shoot...get a bigger tank and a remote line! I honestly don’t know why we get so much slag in particularly. From our own tests, our markers are actually more efficient than other brands’ blow back why so much hate?
As for guys that run MATS with the 13CI HPA alone, most of them report that they never go through all of their ammo before air runs out. I will say this though...we WILL look into a system upgrade or change at some point in the future, but we’ll stick to our core values.

       Milsig is somewhat famous with it's fans for not being a “hype machine” like other paintball companies when they choose to market new products. Some fans are crying for some kind of teaser from Milsig for anything from new marker accessories to the long awaited box-magazine. Are there any plans to throw them a bone in coming weeks? Anything you'd be willing to share about the "Milsig 2.0" teased on Facebook?

       I’m not totally against hype, as excitement is a key marketing tool. However, unless I’m 100% good and ready to release a properly tested high quality product, I’d rather not talk about it much at all. I disappointed a lot of fans for a failure to deliver a box mag, which we hyped... In the end, our competitor beat us to the punch, and I vow to not make the same mistake again. I’ll let the end results speak for is crap unless you deliver substance.

       Milsim paintball and limited ammo play is becoming hugely popular, unfortunately for new players, the price of a magazine fed marker is pretty huge itself. Does Milsig have any plans to make it more accessible to new players in the future?

       Without revealing too much, part of MILSIG 2.0 is to make the entry barrier into mag fed play lower...stay tuned.

       Accessibility aside, where do you see Milsig paintball or mag-fed play as a whole in the future?

       I think more players will see the benefits of limited ammo or mag fed play. I don’t think one needs to shoot a case of paint per outing to have a good time, and the cost benefits will outweigh some “spray and pray” tendencies. I think over time, field operators will see the light and realize that you don’t need your players to burn through a lot of paint to make a profit.

       If you weren't involved with Milsig as you are now, what do you think you'd be doing instead?

       Well, truth be told, MILSIG isn’t how I make my living. I’ve recently taken on a more active role and spend as much time running MILSIG as one would at a full time job, but I have other business interests. The company behind MILSG does a lot more than just make MILSIM paintball products. We do considerable ODM (Original Design Manufacturing), OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturing), and R & D work for clients from a diverse range of industries including the automotive, firearms, airsoft, and paintball industries. On top of that, we do a lot of military and law enforcement contract work here in Taiwan and abroad.
When I’m not doing the manufacturing stuff, I’m involved in property development. I guess I just like to “build things”.

       Lastly, what is Nelson Lau's favorite game to play at the field?

       Capture the flag! No, just kidding... I actually don’t have a favorite game. I like to take part in objective filled scenario games...just like it was from the BETTER days. I like it more when an event takes on an unpredictable life of its own, where the outcome isn’t solely determined by “which team killed more of the other teams’ guys”. I’ve played in games where I fired a lot of paint, got into many firefights, and made a lot of kills and not felt fulfilled. I’ve had others where I did a lot of sneaking around where I didn’t even make a kill but felt way more enjoyment. Teamwork and comradery are more important to me than having the coolest toys or the most kills.